Pandemic pounds - 5 ways to shift them

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA

3 Minutes

During these uncertain times, sticking to a healthy eating and exercise routine has not been easy for many of us. Some of us may have found some unwanted extra kilos. I know for myself, the usual gym routine suddenly came to a halt. It forced me to think about alternative ways to keep active. Not a simple task especially when working from home and everything else being up in the air.  

Whether you have gained extra weight from a change in eating, exercise or even alcohol habits, there are ways to kick these old habits and establish some new health enhancing ones. Below are 5 tips to help shift those pandemic pounds that will help you to feel good about yourself, inside and out.  


1. Restock the pantry and freezer  

Now that supermarket shelves are restocked, it's a good time to get back to basics. Stocking up 'pantry essentials' makes it easier to plan healthy meals at a budget price. Essentials include: 

- Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables 

- Wholegrain bread, oats, natural muesli, crackers, rice, pasta, noodles, barley, couscous, quinoa, bulghur, semolina, teff, buckwheat 

- Lean red meat, chicken, fish (fresh and tinned), eggs and legumes (canned and dried)  

- Reduced fat Milk, yoghurt, cheese or dairy alternatives - soymilk, soy yoghurt   

- Olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, 100% nut butters e.g., peanut, almond 

- Miscellaneous items: herbs (fresh and dried), spices, reduced salt soy sauce, 100% tomato paste 


2. Establish a routine and stick to it! 

Whether you are working from home or in the office, establishing a routine around eating and exercise is key to losing those extra kilos. With eating habits, start by planning three meals a day.  

It sounds simple, but scheduling three balanced meals will reduce the temptation of grazing all day or overeating portions at dinner if you have been without food for hours. Adding a healthy snack during mid-morning and afternoon can also ward off any hunger pangs. 

There is no set rule when establishing an exercise routine, it really depends on your own individual needs. Aim for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. This can be broken up into 2 x 15 minutes if you need to make it easier or you don't have time for 30 minutes in one go. Different types of exercise works for different people so think about what you like and can add into your day. Not only will your body thank you but you being more active also helps with our energy levels, mood and sleep.  

Don't forget you don’t have to leave your house to meet your daily physical level needs. Capital Chicks CANberra have a variety of online workouts for you to choose from!  


3. Portion caution 

Eating quality, wholefoods is only one part of the equation to losing weight. How much we eat or the quantity also counts! It can be easy to overdo the portions when we are based at home and have easy access to the fridge. The following is a general guide to portions: 

  • Include cooked vegetables or salad into each main meal. One portion size would be two large handfuls.  

  • Include one portion of protein into each main meal. One portion of protein (red meat, chicken, fish) is about the size of your palm, 2 eggs, 1 small tin tuna/salmon or 1/2 cup legumes.  

  • Include one portion of starchy carbs into each meal. One portion of starchy carbs is a fist size portion. Starchy carbs include potato, rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa, bulghur, buckwheat, barley, couscous, semolina, teff, oats, natural muesli 

  • Include on serve of good fats into each main meal. One serve of 'good fats' is the size of your thumb or 1 Tablespoon. Good fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds or 100% nut butter.   


4. Get in tune with your hunger  

We eat for many different reasons. When we’re hungry, bored, stressed, tired, thirsty, happy and sad. You may have found during these uncertain times that eating was not just for hunger, and more to relieve an emotion such as stress. Next time you feel like eating, ask yourself, 'is it physical hunger or psychological hunger?' Do you have hunger pangs or are you bored or stressed?   

Becoming more conscious of your eating habits can help you to figure out the things that trigger you to eat when you’re not hungry. This is a way of being mindful or practising mindful eating. Research has shown us that mindfulness-based interventions may be useful for improving eating behaviours like binge eating and emotional eating. Mindful eating practices can help you to respond more reflectively in a situation when you’re about to eat. Interrupting the automatic responses might help you to eat more intuitively and choose healthy foods to nourish your body. 

Trusting our body when we are physically hungry is not always easy especially if we have easy access to the kitchen! Using a hunger scale is another way to help us to be more aware of our feelings of hunger and fullness. 

Pin on Health & Nutrition Reads 

When you feel like you want to eat, try rating your hunger on a scale of one to 10, where one is starving and 10 is so full you feel sick. A rating of five or six means you’re comfortable, neither too hungry nor too full. It’s best to eat when your hunger is a three to four and stop eating when you get to five or six. 


5. Hold the happy hour  

For many during the pandemic, happy hour has become more than just a weekend habit. According to a poll carried out by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, 70% of Australians admit to drinking more alcohol than they would have prior to the pandemic and 34% say they are drinking alcohol every day. Alcohol contains more calories than you might  think and can sabotage your healthy lifestyle goals. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to carbohydrate and protein, which contain 4 calories per gram. Those few glasses per night can quickly add up and it is not-uncommon to eat more when consuming alcohol.  

Start by reducing the number of days you drink alcohol. Perhaps limit it to the weekend when you are more likely to be social. The habit of pouring a glass in the afternoon will still be there so perhaps replace it with a glass of  mineral water and slices of lemon. Put it in a crystal wine glass to make it feel a little more special!  

Distraction can also help between happy hour and dinner. Non-drinking related behaviours include going for a walk, doing an online workout (there are many available from the Chicks CANberra), catching up with or calling a friend, reading a book or watching a movie.  


In summary 

So there have been some pandemic pounds that you may have gained during these past few months. No need to hit the panic button and google diets that promise to strip the weight off in a short amount of time. The most common reasons for  weight gain during the pandemic include a change in eating, exercise and alcohol habits. Start with a positive mindset and work on establishing a new routine that you can sustain.  



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